“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7).
In my walk with Christ, a major stumbling block was the notion that spiritual growth equates to the disappearance of enemy strongholds. Now, no one ever came right out and stated that, explicitly, at least not that I recall, but trust me, the idea was strongly inferred, and continues to be, unfortunately. With spiritual maturity came greater temptation; spiritual maturity didn’t eliminate any of my struggles, but I find that maturity influences my response to them. As I wrote in a post last year, about my thorns, “I may no longer be mastered by my struggles, but my struggles remain; they didn’t disappear.”
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). I want to take a moment to boast about a few of my thorns. I am not a natural public speaker, I find facilitation and administration extremely tedious. Even when my heart is swelling with compassion, I often struggle to find the right words. I am a loner, by nature, who most often struggles with near crippling anxiety. I am legally blind. I make mistakes, both willfully and unwittingly, every day. Yet, I am not ashamed, but instead, boast about all of these, because despite my flaws, God, in his infinite mercy and power, sees fit to utilize me. And his mercy and power are not limited to me, by any means, nor is it limited to any other select few. His mercy and power are available to anyone willing to follow; those called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
Every so many Sundays, it’s my turn to be the assisting elder, at my church, which entails opening the service (i.e. sharing announcements, calling the congregation to worship, leading the church in various opening prayers, and offering the peace of Christ), and each time a miracle happens. As I stand behind the pulpit looking out into the congregation, I feel the presence of two opposing spirits (it never fails). A spirit of anxiety rushes upon me like a freight train (no exaggeration), but the Holy Spirit is always there with me too. God meets my need, in that moment, to complete the good work he has assigned me, and I get to experience a beautiful miracle, my connection with the Spirit, each Sunday I assist. Uncomfortable as my flesh may still be, my own spirit is at peace. “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). The enemy intended for each and every one of my struggles to separate me from God, but God, as God does so well, uses each and every one of my struggles to draw me closer to him. So, please, don’t be discouraged by the struggle. I spent too many years feeling discouraged and even rejected. God just cannot be beat! His promises are good! His plans cannot be thwarted! Amen!
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